Just as the seasons change during the course of the year, people change during the Holidays. It=s like a blanket falls over people the day after Thanksgiving, and through the bitter impatience that resides within shoppers fighting to discover that one, perfect thing to wrap under the tree on Christmas Eve, shines a tranquil, unspoken bestowing of good will to all. It=s often difficult to see the smile beneath the scowl that=s buried under the scarves, earmuffs and stocking caps, but it=s there, choosing to remain unnoticed until that one moment in time when it seems to be the perfect gesture.
On January first, people find themselves in bed with hangovers from the previous night=s festivities that lasted until god-only-knows-how-long, ultimately stumbling out of bed for a breakfast of liquid ambition and ibuprofen. The remainder of that day is spent in nostalgic remembrance as the tree is taken down and decorations wrapped and boxed up for another year. The poinsettia is watered, the fruitcake is wrapped in foil and put in the freezer to be given away next year, and a final toast is given to the season that seemed to vanish before it started; a ceremonial wish for just one more day off before returning to the daily gridlock at the office, more to finish off the last bottle of wine than anything else.
Not until the second day of the New Year do things immediately revert to the normal Aexcuse-me-but-you’re-in-my-way attitude, and the joy and harmony that seemed to connect everyone during those few short weeks between the end of November and the first of January becomes, like the Holiday Season, a distant memory. The wishes for snow so we might have the longed-for White Christmas turn to dreams of exotic, tropical mid-winter vacation spots filled with warm sand, salty air and libations garnished with toothpick umbrellas.
And then, only a few short days later, the mere mention of Christmas makes people cringe. It’s forgotten, the sense of peace we all experience when we see the full moon gazing down on the dazzling display of Christmas lights our neighbor meticulously put together on the lawn. We forget the feeling of victory that overtakes us when we laughed at the imagined reaction our kin would have at discovering the gift we picked out for them. But above all else, we forget the good will we all shared toward each other for that brief time, as though it was only required for those four weeks.
I had an experience this season that made me realize all hope for society is not gone. This could turn into a ranting and raving about the evils and potential negative long-term effects of using Botox for therapeutic reasons. But I will spare you all at this time and save that topic for a future column. Suffice it to say that after only two treatments, my affected hand is much worse off than it was before I began the regimen. The tightness has returned to my fingers but the strength that accompanied the bad muscle tone has not. So, where before I could at least utilize my inability to open the fingers of my left hand to my advantage by claiming a vice grip when I held something in my fingers, now the fingers pull away and open at the slightest tension, really making my hand less useful than it was before. But I digress.
I live right across the street from Lund=s in Uptown, so driving over to the grocery store is really not practical. I go a couple times a week and get a few things, walking over and walking back. This not only prevents me from having to drive around the block to get back home through the maze of one-way streets, but also allows me to maintain whatever parking space I might have been able to get.
In hustling around to get my preparations for the Christmas dinner I planned to make, I wound up with quite a load from Lund’s, not the least of which was a box of cat litter and the Christmas duck (no, they were not related). I was having a pretty difficult time finagling the bag of groceries and the cat litter back to my building. I know that I would have done it I’ve managed before with as much weight in bags but it was cold and it was getting late and I=d just battled hoards of last-minute Holiday shoppers vying for that last, available bag of cranberries, and longer-than-long lines at the checkout lanes, so I really wasn=t in the mood to battle my own limitations in a fight to get home. I just wasn’t.
I’d managed to make it across the street, and crossing Lagoon Ave on foot is no meager task in itself. And just as I was about to start up the sidewalk toward my parking lot I heard a voice ask me, Would you like me to take one of those? My first instinct was to say no. And I actually did respond with, No, thanks I got it. And I was prepared to deal with this issue on my own, despite my crippled left arm and my sore right arm (from a minor back injury sustained a couple weeks prior). But this young lady persisted, AAre you sure? I live in your building; I’m going your way. And suddenly I realized that it wasn’t a blow to my pride to accept this woman’s help. She was offering a genuine hand. And hadn’t I just been complaining to myself about how crabby I was becoming? So in that split second I decided to say yes. And she helped me with my bag. In fact, she carried it up to the second floor, where she lived, and I said I could grab it the rest of the way to the third floor, which is where my apartment is.
When I started writing this column it was going to be about how the notion to give seems to be more prevalent during the Holiday Season, but I realized as I lived through this year that the concept of receiving is, too, I think, more comfortable for people this time of year. No one particularly likes to be in a position where they need assistance or a hand-out. Everyone would, ideally, like to be self-sufficient and not have to rely on the willingness of others for help. But when you have two ideals, such as giving and receiving, that need to work in harmony in order to be successful, there’s no better time than the Holidays to practice them both.
Still, they should be things we all do throughout the year. I’m as guilty as everyone else in this capacity. It is, after all, much easier on the heart to give than to receive. I know I would rather help someone than be helped by someone. And that may be simply an ego thing, but it=s how I feel. So I think the real mission statement here is to say, on behalf of everyone who was able to receive this year, thank you, to everyone who was able and willing to give. But thanks also need to go from those who gave to those to whom they gave for receiving those gifts, for we all play an active role in this world.
There is a quote that I try to avoid using because I think it is over-used, but it seems appropriate here, as I tie up my thoughts for 2003 and prepare for the adventure that is sure to be 2004. They are such simple words but prove that even the smallest of things can wield great power. One small boy, who had such a keen outlook of his, and everyone’s life, and gave to the world everything he had even though he had very little to give … God bless us, every one.